Digital survivance and Trickster humor: exploring visual and digital Indigenous epistemologies in the #NoDAPL movement

Hinzo, Angel M.; Clark, Lynn Schofield
Information, Communication & Society

The decolonizing turn in the humanities and social sciences calls for scholarship that analyzes social media practices through the lens of Indigenous epistemologies. In this article, we model the ways that Indigenous epistemologies might contribute to theories of social media practices as we explore ways that the digital image can drive identification with and engagement in political acts. The article analyzes social media tropes circulated across various platforms among Indigenous communities and allies in relation to the #NoDAPL movement. We argue that attempting to analyze Native American traditions through Western theory will only work towards colonizing these Indigenous texts. Thus, whereas we employ insights from digital and visual methods of analysis (Highfield, T., & Leaver, T. (2016). Instagrammatics and digital methods: Studying visual social media, from selfies and GIFs to memes and emoji. Communication Research and Practice, 2(1), 47?62), we also highlight the strategic use of humor in the visual materials shared through various social media platforms utilizing the framework of the Trickster. We argue that the visual and digital phenomena we studied might best be understood as a form of digital survivance, drawing upon Anishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor [(1994). Manifest manners: Postindian warriors of survivance. Hanover, CT: Wesleyan University Press]. term ?survivance? as a portmanteau that combines ?survival? and ?resistance? in its characterization of Indigenous storytelling traditions. Whereas centering the Indigenous figure of the Trickster might suggest that social media has failed to live up to its promises, this epistemological approach also explains the hope that Indigenous communities hold in uniting via social media for what has been and continues to be a long-term battle for sovereignty and for the protection of the earth and all of its beings.